Summer 2018 - PHIL 100W D100

Knowledge and Reality (3)

Class Number: 4563

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    RCB IMAGTH, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 8, 2018
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    Location: TBA



An introduction to some of the central problems of philosophy. Topics to be discussed include the different theories of reality; the nature and sources of knowledge, truth, evidence, and reason; the justification of belief and knowledge about the universe. These topics and problems will be considered as they arise in the context of issues such as: relativism versus absolutism; the existence of God; personal identity; the nature of the mind and its relation to the body; free will and determinism; the possibility of moral knowledge. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL 100 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


It must seem to you at this moment that you are reading a course outline.  But are you really?  Are you sure?  Perhaps you are having a (slightly odd) dream.  What about other beliefs you have—are they true?  For example, you probably believe you have a brain in your skull and that other people do, too.  Is that belief identical to a state of that brain?  Or are beliefs non-physical?  Could something that lacks a brain like ours have beliefs?  What if you are a brain in a vat wired up so as to have experiences as though you were a normal human?  You would have (be?) a brain, but you wouldn’t even have a skull.  What if what you think of as other people are all figments of your imagination and you are the only thing that exists?

This course is an introduction to philosophy, focusing primarily on issues in epistemology and metaphysics (that is, those concerning knowledge and reality respectively).  Questions likely to be discussed include some of the following: What is knowledge?  Do we have knowledge of the external world, and, if so, how do we get it?  What is the mind?  What is the relationship between the mind and the body?

The course is designed with two broad goals in mind.  One, it will give you a chance to consider some interesting philosophical issues.  These issues are central to an exploration of the human condition, and everyone should have an opportunity to reflect on them.  Two, it will provide you with an opportunity to improve your critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, thereby helping you with almost any intellectual endeavour in which you subsequently choose to engage.


PHIL 100W may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the Writing Requirement and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.


  • Participation (10% for clickers in lecture, 10% for tutorial participation, including low-stakes assignments—more details in the first week) 20%
  • Two Papers: 15% and 25% 40%
  • In-class midterm 10%
  • Final Exam 30%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of the submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.




As you may know, i>clickers can be used in different classes.  If you already have one, don’t buy another.  If you don't already have one, buy one knowing that you can use it in other courses, or just borrow one if you can bring it to every lecture and register it.  I>clicker 1 is fine for this course, as I ask only multiple-choice questions.  I>clicker 2 is also fine as is i-clicker +, but Web-clicker is not.  Details available early in the term.  Bring your clicker to the very first lecture if you have it, but don’t fret about having one or registering it (until Week 2).


Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students, 2nd edition. Lewis Vaughn and Jillian Scott McIntosh, Oxford University Press, 2013.  (ISBN 978-0-19-544674-6) 

Once term is underway, the (other) required readings will be available as pdfs on-line (password-protected, so only for registered students) via the class website.  This is much cheaper for you than a hardcopy anthology, though (i) you don’t get a cool hefty book for your shelf, (ii) you don’t get to flip through fascinating but unassigned articles, and (iii) you must exercise due diligence in accessing the readings and (if you’re like me) printing them up. 

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.